What to eat when there’s nothing in the fridge

As a student, I’m constantly on the go and often am in need of a quick, nutritious way of refuelling after a long day out.   At home, with access to a fully stocked fridge, I could think of hundreds of meals that fit the bill, but in Cambridge, long life foods take centre stage (ain’t nobody got time for food shopping every day!).  With this in mind, here are some ideas for when there’s nothing in the fridge but you still want to eat well.  Stock up on the list below, and you’ll never go hungry again!

  • tinned soups
  • tinned beans, chickpeas etc
  • tinned sweetcorn
  • baked beans
  • hummus (tends to last at least 10 days before opening)
  • sweet potatoes
  • microwave brown rice

1) Sweet potato with hummus and sweetcorn
I eat this for dinner at least four times a week – it’s the best!  Hummus and sweetcorn is a healthy, vegan alternative to tuna mayo with sweetcorn, and is so tasty that I sometimes eat it sans sweet potato!  For the full meal: wash and dry the potato, then poke with a fork, drizzle with oil and microwave until soft (usually 10mins).  Mix one can of sweetcorn with a big dollop of hummus and use it to top the potato.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika and seeds for an extra kick.

2) Carrot balsamic salad
One problem with salads is lettuce: it goes soggy and nasty pretty damn quick.  Bring in the grated carrot salad! This actually tastes better with time, as the carrot gets the chance to absorb the dressing! Peel and grate two large carrots, dress with olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar and leave to sit for 10 mins or so.  Then add in half a can of chickpeas, whatever fresh veggies you have in, plus some nuts and dried fruit for an interesting texture and voila – a super cheap and healthy meal in under 5 minutes.IMG_1388

3) Sub 10 minute stir fry
If you keep a jar of good quality stir fry sauce in your fridge and onions in your cupboards, stir fries can be whipped up with almost any veggie in no time at all. Check my recipe here for inspiration.

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4) Soup and hummus on double toasted rye
Don’t turn your nose up at canned soups – they’re cheap, filling and surprisingly healthy! I’m a fan of Sainbury’s ‘Be Good to Yourself’ range (my fave is the Three Bean and Tomato one).  Rye bread is great too – it lasts longer than normal bread and is much better for you. But here’s my secret….double toast it! Seriously, toast it once, then toast again (keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn) before spreading on your hummus.  The texture and aroma improves SO much! You must try it!

5) Egg pots with soldiers 
An upgrade on the student classic: beans on toast. Cut a couple of cherry tomatoes into small pieces, put in a mug and microwave for 30s.  Add half a can of baked beans, stir and heat through. Once hot, crack an egg on top and microwave until egg is cooked.  Place atop a piece of really great wholemeal toast for the perfect 5 minute comfort meal. Yum

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Leon egg pots: my inspiration  (minus the £4 price tag!)

 

Food exploration in the UAE (aka. new home!)

Hi all!  happy 2016!!

New Year is always a big time for change. Whether it’s choosing daily resolutions to make each day happier & healthier, or setting that big goal to work towards all year, I love the opportunity New Year brings to think about the your path for the year ahead.

For me, there’s a pretty big change on the horizon….I’m moving to Dubai!  I’m so excited about the opportunity to experience a new culture, way of life and, of course, cuisine!! Having just spent a week there, my first impression of the place is fantastic. The weather is lovely, the people are polite and friendly, the atmosphere is fantastic and there’s so much to do. I really like how strong the health scene is too; there’s fantastic running paths along the coastline, health clubs and pools everywhere and lots of cool healthy cafes in the many shopping malls.

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One of my favourite things about Dubai was the access to such a great range of Middle Eastern foods! Arabic and Lebanese restaurants are on every corner, serving their variation of the Levant classics.  They’re really healthy, with a basis on fresh vegetables and great herbs and spices.  Here’s an introduction to my favourite healthy dishes:

1) Tabbouleh

My fave! A veggie dish made with loads of parsley, tomatoes, mint, onions a little bit of bulgur wheat and lemon.  The perfect refreshment for the summer heat.

2) Fattoush

This is a delicious salad made with loads of fresh veggies and toasted pitta bread, dressed in lots of lemony sumac dressing.

3) Baba Ghanoush

Think of it as hummus’ fancier cousin 😛 This is a dish made with grilled aubergine (<3), onion, olive oil and lemon juice.  It’s so simple yet so good

4) Eetch

This was a new one to me! It’s an Armenian side dish made using bulgur wheat (or couscous), pureed tomatoes and paprika.

5) Hummus

Hummus needs no introduction. It’s just the best. End of.

My body is an instrument, not an ornament – the power of sport

Recently, there’s been a shift in the media towards embracing healthy living;  everyone is going to spin classes and drinking kale, and working out has become cool again.  This is great: I’m a huge advocate of healthy living and support outlets that encourage people to get active.

However, the focus of this health drive, especially for girls, falls far too heavily on the aesthetic benefit – and it’s having worrying effects. The media tells girls that the most important and valued outcome of physical activity is losing weight /  looking hot / getting that much coveted bikini body.  For example:Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 20.20.20

(girls:  lose weight! look great with no clothes on! )
(guys: win gold medals! excel in everything!)

Uh, what?!  Why should girls be channeling time and energy into shrinking themselves to look good for others?  Shouldn’t they be encouraged to excel and win gold medals too?

For much of my teenage years,  my relationship with fitness influenced very much by these expectations. I’d set my cross trainer to the ‘calories’ goal to burn off the exact number I’d consumed and would top it off with an ab routine – because it was almost summer and my abs were no where near ‘beach ready’.  I didn’t see exercise as anything other than a route to look good, and when I didn’t get the results I wanted, I lost confidence.

But when I started to treat exercise as sport rather than a a way of burning calories, my outlook completely changed.  This first happened when I signed up for a half marathon: I had 13.1 miles run and needed a workout plan that was structured around achieving my goals, not a tiny waist.

The shift in mindset was even more pronounced when I got involved with team sports.  This term,  I began to take rowing seriously and trained hard to get into the women’s first boat.  Everyone on the team was really strong and I knew that if I was to keep pace, I’d have to fundamentally rethink how I saw my body.  I couldn’t worry about being ‘skinny’ – skinny doesn’t get power down in the water! Weights weren’t the route to ‘tank top shoulders’, but a valuable opportunity to strengthen myself and make me more powerful for my team.  Going to the gym wasn’t something I should do if I wanted pudding, but a central part of my training – I’d be letting my crew down if I didn’t.  In this way,  I started to think of my body as an enabler,  focussing on what my body can do, not what it looks like.  As a result, I’m training harder, feeling much more empowered and getting better results than I ever would before.

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This is most fundamental and important change that needs to happen in the message we’re putting out to girls about exercise. Your body is an instrument, not an ornament.  You are capable of so much more than looking hot.

We should teach girls to take pride in their strength, not how they look.  Teach girls to find confidence in knowing they are a valued member of a team, not valued for their looks.  Teach girls that empowerment does not come through looking good, it comes through using your body to achieve and experience all the wonderful things life has to offer.

Sport and exercise has a fundamental role to play in this, and we need to take responsibility to ensure that today’s young women are engaging with sport in its full capacity to benefit and strengthen themselves, not to look good for others.

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Daily inspiration, courtesy of the boathouse wall 🙂

Check out www.thisgirlcan.co.uk for more information on how to get involved.

Quick, cheap eats No. 1: Stir Fry

Hello!

Now term is well underway and us students are firmly back into the swing of things, I thought I’d do a series on some tasty, cheap and healthy meals which can be enjoyed on the most limited of budgets and kitchen spaces.

First up – stir fry!  It surprises me how people think they’re some mystical phenomenon that only Chinese grandmas and Wagamamas can get right.  Stir fries are actually really simple, quick and cheap! They’re are also super versatile, so you can keep subbing in different kinds of veg and protein and never get bored! Here’s how:

IMG_9930Ingredients

– one onion

– 3 garlic cloves

– oil (I used coconut, but any will do!)

– three or four veggies of choice ( i went for carrots and lettuce)

– some kind of protein (I used Quorn Chicken)

– two portions of rice (one microwave bag, or 150g uncooked)

– 4 tbsp stir fry sauce

The key to a good stir fry is preparation. Once the oil heats up, the rest is really quick, so get all the ingredients ready to go early on

1) Heat the oil in a wok, or big pan.  If you’re using a teeny hotplate like me this will take forever, so do this first!

2) Slice the onion onion and dice garlic.  (Tip – for easy skin removal, whack each clove with with the back of a big knife first – the skin will slide off!)

3) Prep the veggies. This will depend on what veggies you’re using. if using harder ones (carrots, broccoli etc) I’d steam them in microwave them first or you’ll be waiting forever.  Simply slice, put in bowl, cover with 2cm water, cover whole thing with plate and microwave for 1 minute.  They should be soft, but not mushy – remember you’ll be cooking them in the stir fry pan too.IMG_9934IMG_99324) When the oil is hot, add onion and garlic.  Stir fry until golden brown.

5) Add harder veggies, 2tbsp stir fry sauce and protein (in my case, Quorn chicken pieces), then stir fry until veggies are almost done.

6) Heat up the rice.  If you’re pushed for time, those 90s microwave bags are ace.

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7) Add the soft veggies (spinach, lettuce – sounds weird but it works, I promise!) and continue stirring until just wilted

8) Divide the rice between two bowls & top with the stir fry

You can add toppings (cashews, almonds, Sriracha etc) if you’re feeling fancy, but otherwise you’re good to go!  Two portions of veggies & a delicious stir fry meal for under £5 in under 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

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5 things to do tonight to kickstart tomorrow

For me, there’s nothing better than the feeling of getting to 11am and already feeling like you’ve accomplished the major part of your to-do list.  Getting things done early not only means I have the rest of the day free, but also makes me feel more productive so I work better later on.  As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail, so here are five great night-time tips to help you maximise those waking hours.

1) Review your calendar.
Make sure you know what your commitments are for tomorrow. This will enable you to plan, both mentally and physically, for the tasks on the horizon.  It’s not fun going to sleep under the impression you have a whole day to get your work done, only to find at 9am the next day that you have a 10am class and a dinner date you forgot about. Be prepared.

2) Write a morning to do list
Make a list of everything you want to accomplish by 12pm.  Keep it realistic, probably no more than 5 items.  Break every task down into manageable chunks (for example, ‘1hr on essay’ rather than ‘write entire essay’), but really commit to crossing off every single one.  You’ll feel much better when it’s done, I promise.

3) Get your gym kit ready
Get your clean kit out and lay it on the radiator.  You’ll be much less likely to skip your morning run if your outfit is sitting there as a reminder of what you should be doing! You weren’t planning on exercise? Think again! Even 5 minutes is enough to reap health rewards and put you in a better state of mind for the rest of the morning.

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4) Set your phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’
A productive day starts with a good night’s sleep, so being awoken at 3am from yet another spam email is no good.  If you use your phone as an alarm clock – first, make sure the alarm is on with the volume up! – then turn off notifications to allow you to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

5) Write down three positive things you’ve achieved today 
Spend a couple of minutes reflecting on the day’s highlights – what did you achieve? What are you grateful for?  This process will really improve your sleeping and waking thoughts and help frame the day in a positive light.  Behaviour breeds behaviour, so remembering the good – opportunities arisen, great memories made –  will set tomorrow off in the right direction before it’s even started.

Five lessons from SoulCycle that will improve ALL your workouts

Fitness junkie that I am, I’ve tried my fair share of exercises classes.  Body pump, spin, HIIT, pilates – you name it, I’ve sweated my way through it.  But for me, none of them live up to the 45 minutes of super sweaty, neon lit intensity that is SoulCycle. It’s so much more than an exercise class; I leave every one feeling completely renewed and ready to take on the day! Here are five principles which improve all my workouts and make me feel great, both inside and outside the gym.

1) Exercise more than just for your body
The main reason for hitting the gym may be to get fitter, but I really fell in love with exercise when I began to appreciate more than its physical benefits.  See every gym session as a chance to strengthen yourself, both physically and mentally. SoulCycle gets this one to the ground – instructors shout motivation at you (‘This is going to hurt, but you’ve got to believe in yourself, you’ve got to believe you can fight through’) which apply to life, as well as the sprint set ahead. If you’re strong enough to power through that last climb, you’re strong enough to handle whatever the day throws at you!

2) Music makes it
When your beats are on point, your workout is point! At SoulCycle, you’re encouraged to sync your strokes to the beat in order to really get in the zone and give it your all. Music can be such a massive motivator when working out, so follow your favourite fitness studio on Spotify (try SoulCycle or Psycle)  for weekly playlists that’ll keep you energised and excited to exercise.

3) Surround yourself with the energy you want
You can feel SoulCycle’s vibe from the moment you step through the door.  The motivational phrases and clean, organised spaces all contribute to kind of environment in which you want to do your best. Best of all are the people – being surrounded by super toned, driven gym goers is incredible #fitspiration, and the group energy of 50 people all battling through together always pushes me to go further.  This is a principle that’s easily applied to outside the spin studio too. You’re a product of the five people you spend the most time with, so make sure they’re ones who inspire you, support you and build you up.
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4) Focus on you!
Sat next to toned, tamed Californian gym goers all hitting the beats with ease, it was difficult not to feel self conscious about my own (slightly less sassy looking) ride.  But when I started focussing on just enjoying the music and giving the workout my all, it suddenly became the best feeling in world. One of my favourite Pilates teachers, Cassey Ho, reminds students ‘Don’t fixate on being better than the person next to you.  Instead, just try to be better than you were yesterday’.  I love this quote – so simple and yet so applicable and effective.

5) Give it 100%
Yeah, its gonna hurt – a lot.  There will be points where you are in so much pain that turning down the resistance seems like the only sane thing to do.  But here’s the thing: the song will end and your pain will end, but the feeling of knowing you gave it your absolute all will give you strength and motivation throughout the whole day.  It’s the greatest natural confidence booster  – take daily for serious results!
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Review: About Animals

Somehow I’m already down to my last week (!?!) in Taiwan, so I’m trying to cram in as many healthy food spots as I can.

Next on my list: About Animals, a quirky vegan burger place tucked just behind Wanlong MTR (exit 2).

This independent cafe was founded by friends Sasha and Gin, who drew upon their political-science background and awareness of the meat and dairy industry as inspiration to open their own vegan cafe.

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The space is small and relaxed, with four or five indoor tables and an outdoor bar area. Interesting art pieces, postcards and slogans adorn the walls, my favourite being….
IMG_8860IMG_8858IMG_8864In keeping with laid-back style the menu is short and sweet, offering five signature burgers plus a variety of sides.  My boyfriend and I got the kimchee burger and the honey mustard mushroom burger, which were both absolutely delicious.  I really liked the burger buns – instead of white fluffy rubbish most places serve, these ones were wholegrain, textured and packed full of seeds.

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IMG_8872The chips were incredible – dare I say the best chips i’ve ever tried? I also recommend the deep fried yams.  Despite the name, they were actually very light and didn’t leave me feeling greasy and uncomfortable like most deep fried things do.

Most vegan restaurants are very purist, serving acai bowls over alcohol, but About Animals provides a notable exception. They serve a wide variety of beers & ciders from a number of different countries.

IMG_8857 IMG_8862In London or NYC, you could easily have paid £10 for each burger, but each meal came to a very reasonable 180NTD (£3.75)! For some reason, when we went on Monday evening, all burgers were 20% off.  I’m not sure if this is a weekly thing, but try going on a Monday and see if you find the same!

It’s less than a 5 minute walk from Wanlong MTR  but it’s pretty difficult to find.  Download the address onto your phone in Chinese and English so if you get lost (like we did!) you can ask a passer by for directions.

No. 9, Lane 1, Jinglong St, Wenshan District, Taipei City, 116

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Review: WooGo Juice – California Smoothies

Anyone who knows anything about me can tell you what a huge fan I am of a proper smoothie!  Sweet, thick, creamy – it’s all the joy of an ice cream but infinitely more refreshing and better for you!  For this reason, I was so excited to hear about the opening of WooGo Juice, a California style smoothie bar, just minutes from Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT.

IMG_8438Tucked away in an alley behind Ming Yao department store, the place was hard to miss with its big purple sign and distinctive surfboard menu.
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Inside, the space is small, clean, friendly and (mercifully!) strongly air conditioned.  There’s free wifi access and a few seating areas, so its a nice place to grab a refreshing afternoon pick me up and catch up with emails.

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The menu is available in Chinese and English and boasts a wide range of options.  They’re all blended with frozen fruit, nonfat froyo and fruit sorbet, which gives them a deliciously thick and creamy consistency – just how I like it! They’re very reasonably priced too, with 400ml (medium) costing around 75NTD and 600ml (x-large) around 105NTD.

I tried the Berry Puff Girl and Raspberry Mojito, both of which were delicious.  The first is your classic berry smoothie whilst the Mojito was zinger and sharper thanks to the addition of the fresh mint.

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They also serve a wide range of bagels and cream cheeses (the two together costing 65NTD) if you’re looking for a more substantial snack

I really like the WooGo cup – its biodegradable and just a lot of fun to read!  Also when I saw the following….IMG_8450

I knew I must be a true WooGo drinker.

Even better, I recently discovered that WooGo is less than one street from Taiwan’s coolest new fitness class, SpaceCycle.  (Asia’s answer to my love, SoulCycle).  If you’re in the Zhongxiao Dunhua area, be sure to head up to the 13th Floor of Ming Yao Department store (above Uniqlo) and try it out – first one for free! And of course, there’s only one place to go for a post-workout protein pick me up …..

WOOGO JUICE: No. 42, Lane 233, DunHua S. Road, Sec. 1, (02) 2778-0182

How to work out whilst on holiday

Hello!

When I found out I’d be spending 2 months in Taiwan over summer, I was worried about how my fitness regime would hold up.   The 40 ° heat meant that outdoor runs were off the cards, and my student budget limited my access to fitness classes / gym memberships.

Luckily, there’s a gym at uni AND in our apartment block (yay!), but the equipment is pretty limited and they often get very busy (boo), so I’ve had to change up my go-to workouts to fit the circumstances.  Here are my five favourite strategies:

1) The 1000 workout : 
Warm up with 10 mins of cardio, then pick 10 exercises and do each one for 100 reps, with as little rest as possible during each one. Use a weight light enough to let you actually finish the reps, but heavy enough to feel the burn (trust me, it’s really gonna burn 😉 )

2) Youtube videos
Download a workout video series onto your iPhone and take to the gym for a ready made, targeted routine.  I am a huge fan of Blogilates – Cassey sends out a free calendar every month telling you exactly which workouts to do each day – all you have to do is download & do them! Also her energy is just mega infectious and keeps you coming back for more 🙂

3) The 2×2 routine
Warm up for 10 mins.  Choose two exercise that target different muscles (eg. weighted squats and shoulder presses). Grab a weight that challenge you hard (you should be at the point of exhaustion after the sequence), do 8 of each and repeat (ie. 8 squats, 8 presses, 8 squats, 8 presses).  Then choose two more exercises (eg. bicep curls and lunges) and repeat. Do that one more time (3 different sets in total). Cool down with some abs and stretches for good measure.

4) Look out for free classes/ trial gym passes
Gyms often run tester memberships for a week and some studios offer the first class free, so do some research into the local fitness scene. Some websites also offer pay as you go gym classes (try PayAsUGym for the UK) – useful for weekend city breaks etc.

5) Run!
Even if you don’t  consider yourself a runner, I urge you to give it a go whilst on your travels at least once! It’s a great way of seeing a new city from a different perspective.  If you’re nervous about getting lost, check out some local running websites for route ideas. Also, keep an eye out for races whilst on holiday – one of my favourite 10ks (a sunrise route along the Santa Monica beachfront) was done this way!

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And finally, here’s my favourite fitspo of the moment….enjoy!
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You’re a boss. Bosses don’t cancel.